Tips for writing a great CV

Now, I’m not a professional CV writer who will go through your background tooth and nail to pick out every skill and minor achievement and consolidate those into a perfectly drafted document, but I have over 20 years of recruitment experience so probably seen over 100,000 CVs, some good, some not so.

The role of a CV shouldn’t be taken lightly, it could be the difference between being invited for an interview or not so make sure its doing its job and telling your story the right way.

There is a stat I recall, I don’t know how accurate, that someone will spend 6 seconds looking at your CV before making a decision. I hope its wrong, but its good to have that in mind so you adapt it so the relevant information is easy to find.

  1. Keep It Concise – A CV should include the most important information about you and should be kept concise. Best practice is reverse chronological (i.e. most recent first), and assuming your relevant experience is the most recent, include more about this than that of your first job (if it was many years ago). Use bullet points.It doesn’t need to be kept to 2 pages, but anything over 4 and you are probably losing your reader.
  2. Highlight Your Achievements – Make sure to highlight your key achievements and successes which could help you stand out from other applicants. This is probably the most common omission I see on CVs, listing your duties will get you so far, but if you want to differentiate yourself from others this is a way to do it.
  3. If you have external links to your GitHub repo or portfolio then ensure these have decent content and arent a graveyard of your old work.
  4. Explain gaps. Rather than leaving the reader with questions, give them answers.
  5. Accuracy is important. Don’t exaggerate, check your dates and certainly don’t make stuff up. I would even go so far as to remove old tech skills that you only worked on for one semester or over 10 years ago for one project. Be prepared to answer questions about anything on your CV and if you aren’t confident with it, leave it out, or make it very clear it’s minor knowledge (see point 1 – be concise).
  6. If you are including a summary or profile then make it useful, not just a load of meaningless fluff.
  7. Make sure your contact information is included, correct, and up to date. Sounds obvious, but you’ll be surprised.
  8. Be aware of your language, I don’t mean foul language, with more and more automation being used think about the terms that you use and what keywords may get picked up by systems. Avoid using uncommon acronyms, or provide an explanation if you do.
  9. Lastly, and just as important. make sure you proofread it and ideally get someone else to proof it too.

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